As one of the last affordable sports coupes on the planet, the Subaru BRZ has a lot riding on its shoulders. It'd be natural, then, to be worried that changes for its second generation might dull this car's edge. But after a week with one half of the Toyobaru twins, I'm happy to report that the 2022 Subaru BRZ is as fun as it's ever been, and better to live with to boot.
Before its debut, many corners of the internet were hoping that Subaru would give the BRZ the same 2.4-liter turbo flat-four found in the larger Outback and Ascent. And it did, sort of. There is a 2.4-liter H4 under the BRZ's hood, but it sports natural aspiration instead of a turbo, and I find zero issues with this.
With 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque on tap, output is higher than the first-gen BRZ, but it's not so high as to change the car's character, as it would be with said turbocharger. This little guy loves to rev, and it sounds great, with the volume rising dramatically as the needle passes 5,000 rpm. The BRZ is no longer a gutless wonder on the highway, as peak torque arrives at 3,700 rpm. True story: You can actually accelerate in sixth gear now.
The six-speed manual transmission in my BRZ Limited tester is a peach, with just the right amount of notchy lever action and a clutch pedal with a high, but predictable bite point. The throttle can feel a little soupy when taking off, as if the computer is purposefully trying to smooth out my input, but once I'm moving at speed, it's easy to modulate the right pedal as needed. That soupiness comes back every so often when blipping the throttle for a downshift, but most of my flicks put the revs right where I want them.
On the tree-lined asphalt ribbons of rural Michigan, it's hard not to adore the 2022 BRZ's newfound handling prowess. Subaru improved the chassis rigidity and front spring stiffness while softening the rear a tad, and the result is lovely. A hint of body roll communicates a limit that's easy to approach without overdoing the BRZ, like the Mazda Miata. And despite a diminutive wheelbase, any slides that do occur are easy to catch and play with before the electro-nannies rein things in automatically. Throw in my tester's 215/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, and you won't be longing for grip. It's nothing but G-forces and good times -- oh, and road noise, because there's a hell of a lot of that, too.
Not every sports car needs to drag you into poverty with each trip to the gas station. The feds rate the 2022 BRZ at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with the six-speed manual (rising to 21 and 30, respectively, with the six-speed automatic), but those figures feel quite low to me. I'm seeing closer to 35 mpg on Michigan's 70-mph freeways, where the flow of traffic usually runs about 10 mph higher than that.
I like the way the first-generation Subaru BRZ looks, but I appreciate the changes to the second-generation coupe's styling. The 2022 BRZ's silhouette is still nice and wedgy, but smoother edges on the headlights and a slightly shrunken grille makes things a bit more adult. The rear end is a smidge less aggressive, too -- and the styling looks better in this application than it does on the 2022 WRX, that's for sure. The Limited trim's larger 18-inch wheels fit the wells nicely.
The BRZ's interior also grows up for 2022. The dashboard has a few more angles so it no longer feels like you're inches from the firewall. Most of the switchgear has been tweaked, too, with some premium-looking climate control dials and new toggles just below. More importantly, the center armrest sports a new clamshell cover that hides two cup holders and a pair of 2.1-amp USB-A ports. The front seats have just the right amount of bolstering, feeling supportive but not hug-from-Grandma tight. The rear seats are seats in name only, but for a car this small, the front buckets are sufficiently roomy.
At 6.3 cubic feet, the trunk will handle a week's worth of groceries for two or three, and it's far more capacious than the 4.6 cubes Mazda offers in the Miata.
No matter the trim, the 2022 BRZ has an 8-inch touchscreen running a basic version of Subaru's Starlink infotainment system. It's not the most attractive system, and some screens can be a little info-dense, but the pages are sufficiently responsive, and I can always plug in my phone for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Putting the USB ports in the center armrest means I don't have cables flapping all over the place, either, which is nice.
The outgoing BRZ's physical gauges have been eschewed in favor of a new 7-inch digital display. The graphics are pretty rudimentary once again, but they're easy to read at any speed, and the steering wheel switches let me bounce between relevant info points like individual tire pressures and distance to empty. The central tachometer has a user-adjustable yellow zone, in case I want to act a little more adult in my daily driving, and I can have the cluster beep when it's time to shift if I want to keep my eyes on the road full-time.
Subaru goes hard in the paint with safety systems, so it's no surprise that this mantra applies to the 2022 BRZ, as well. Automatic models get the EyeSight suite of driver aids, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. My manual tester has a more limited complement, offering just blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, but the systems are still welcome, and they're standard on the Limited.
Best of all, the 2022 Subaru BRZ remains very affordable. A base model will set you back $28,995 (including the $960 destination charge), while the upmarket Limited trim bumps that price to just $31,455. And the Limited would be my trim of choice, thanks to upgrades like heated front seats and the aforementioned safety tech. Competition is slim these days, being limited to the also-new Toyota GR 86 and, if you fancy a droptop instead, the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
But that's fine, because the 2022 Subaru BRZ offers just about everything a person might want in a small sports coupe. It's great to drive, it doesn't look like a Gundam and it's not going to ruin your wallet at the dealership or the gas pump.